Asked about the crossroad he sees culture facing today and how Christian schools could best respond, Dan Beerens says he’s not necessarily seeing any new and urgent turning-point. But there’s an ongoing need that hasn’t change since life began, and society should be giving fresh consideration to how it seeks to answer that need through education.
“The human condition is the human condition, and as I see it, in the bigger picture, it’s always about the issue of helping people to flourish,” Beerens tells OACS News.
People who are flourishing have essentially found “shalom,” which has been defined as having harmony with God, with others, with creation and with self.
Beerens says he believes Christian education has great potential to help people flourish, in large part because it can address the whole person.
The Christian worldview takes into account the brokenness and lack of shalom in the world, but also considers humanity hopefully. It’s able to do so because it adequately addresses the foundational questions of life, such as why am I here; what is the meaning of life; why should I be good; what happens after I die: is this all there is.
Beerens has himself run up against the challenge of helping students to flourish without being allowed to speak to their full humanity.
He recalls working in a public school where a student he was disciplining challenged him with the question, “Well, really, why should I be good?”
After running through the line of reasoning that includes for economic gain or career fulfillment and thereby contentment, Beerens says he realized the inadequacy of his response without a reference to a God who requires obedience.
Yet across nations, laws of the lands are built off this foundation of a Judeo-Christian understanding of one’s responsibility to God and one’s responsibility to one’s neighbour, says Beerens.
However, in many Canadian public schools and the majority of U.S. schools, providing a Judeo-Christian education is not permitted. There is character education, but that’s the best that’s allowed.
No link can be made to a personal relationship with God.
“So I can help you flourish to a degree, and I believe in helping all schools to help kids flourish, however I cannot name, I cannot point to some of those answers that as a Christian I find great meaning in, and that give great purpose to my life,” says Beerens.
He notes we’re living in a society that largely believes education can and should be non-religious — and yet, Beerens argues, it is religious.
“There is a viewpoint that’s being expressed, either explicitly or implicitly, in the classroom setting; there are value judgments that are being given. Even a lack of value judgment is a judgment.”
Beerens says he’s concerned that, by default, humanism, atheism and agnosticism have come to be the dominant religions in public education, and yet they fall so short of enabling students to flourish fully.
“We can show the way to true flourishing in our (Christian) schools,” he says.
— More to Come